LAS VEGAS (AP) — Miguel Cotto is the featured attraction, and Ricardo Mayorga will play his usual role as the foil.
The real stars of Saturday night’s boxing card on the glittering Las Vegas Strip, though, might be two guys watching from ringside.
Don King and Bob Arum, together again in search of a few more bucks.
“It’s a return to glory,” King said. “We are back into the forefront of boxing, the sweet science. We are just renewing old acquaintances.”
There was once a day when a fight between the two promoters would be as anticipated as some of the fights they put on. For years they were bitter enemies, not giving each other any due and sabotaging a rival show whenever given the chance.
But they’ve mellowed over the years and are working together. Arum has Cotto, King has Mayorga, and the MGM Grand hotel has a fight.
“There’s never been a better salesman in boxing than Don King,” Arum said. “I think Don made me a lot better promoter than I would have been and I think I made Don a better promoter than he would have been.”
Cotto against Mayorga is a fight that needs the best promoters, especially when King and Arum are trying to sell them on pay-per-view for a suggested price of $49.95. That’s the going rate for bigger fights, but the matchup for a piece of the 154-pound title features two fighters who both carry a lot of question marks.
Mayorga is flamboyant and talks as good of a fight as anyone. But the former welterweight and light middleweight champion is 37 and has fought only eight times in the last eight years, losing four of those bouts.
Cotto was once a fast-rising star but he, too, has slowed down. He took a beating against Antonio Margarito and an even worse one from Manny Pacquiao before rebounding last year at Yankee Stadium with a win over Yuri Foreman for his 154-pound title.
Still, he’s a 11-1 favorite to win the scheduled 12-round bout.
“I feel like I’ve had a great career,” Cotto said. “I know it’s near the end of it, but I feel like it’s the beginning. I feel great and I feel like I have a lot left in me before I go.”
Another loss by Cotto (35-2, 28 knockouts) against the wild-swinging but powerful Mayorga would seriously damage his marketability and could bring his career to a close prematurely. Mayorga (29-7-1, 23 KOs) would also seem to be at the end of the line, though he keeps getting fights against big names even while he loses.
That’s probably because King is enamored with a fighter who is willing to say almost anything to sell a ticket.
“I really can’t care at all what other people think and that if I’m deserving of a title shot,” Mayorga said. “All I care about is taking full advantage of it and crowning myself world champion for the fourth time.”
Mayorga hopes a win will give him a shot at Pacquiao in the fall, assuming both that Pacquiao beats Shane Mosley in May and Arum is still unable to make a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. for boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighter. Cotto wouldn’t mind a rematch with Pacquiao, either, though he was stopped in the 12th round when they met in November 2009.
For now, though, they fight each other, and Arum and King do their best to sell it. The two promoters, both pushing 80, have made joint appearances all week long to do what they do best – sell a fight for what might be instead of what really is.
“I don’t think Mayorga beats Cotto. I just don’t see it,” Arum said. “If he does though, Mayorga vs. Pacquiao will be the biggest pay-per-view event of all time.”
Arum tried to spice the pay-per-view card up by adding Christy Martin, the popular female fighter who was trying to come back only months after being shot and stabbed in her Florida home. But she injured a rib in training, and he went to Plan B, inserting Baltimore Ravens safety Tommy Zbikowski in her place.
Zbikowski, who fought in 2006 while still at Notre Dame, will be looking for his second win as a pro against Richard Bryant, who is 1-2, in a four-round fight.
Foreman is also on the card, fighting Pawel Wolak in his first fight since injuring his knee in his loss last summer to Cotto.
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